Friday, March 2, 2012

Peer Editing

I promise this mess means something!

How do you select peer editors for your friends?  I always have some that are ready for a peer editor and some that are still writing.  It got to be confusing to see who was ready for peer editing and who wasn't.  Then, I came up with this idea.

When we are ready for editing, my friends get a checklist to use for self-editing.  It's pretty thorough and my friends are able to catch and fix a lot.  However, I always like them to have a peer editor.  A fresh set of eyes will always find something new, and it gives my friends an opportunity to see how their peers are writing.

When I see that my friends are beginning to be ready for a peer editor, I make the chart above.  I write "I need a peer editor!" at the top and number one to about 15.  When a friend is ready for a peer editor, they go up and write their name down.  If they get to the chart and see a name on it, they write their name next to it and then cross out both names with a single line.  They then, meet with their peer editor and exchange papers.

Here's why this works for me:
-It's a random pairing.  In the past, I would try to make sure they had a different peer editor each time. This chart sort of takes care of that.  They rarely get the same person twice.
-When they just put a single line through both names, I am able to see at a glance who is working together.  Of course, for the blog I have scribbled out the names. 
-They know the routine.  My friends always have  what we call a "Go To" book and activity in their desk.  If they put their name on the chart, but a peer isn't yet available they go to their "Go To" book and read or work on their "Go To" activity while they are waiting.  There is always something to do!

I have also simplified my peer editing process tremendously.  In the past, I would copy different peer editing checklists for my friend to use.  It got to be far too complex and time consuming.  Now, we don't use a chart at all.  They simply take a blank piece of paper.  The rule is two compliments and two critiques. 

We work it this way.  They meet with their peer editor and exchange papers.  They then find a spot away from the author to read the paper.  They can't ask the author any questions while they peer edit.  I point out that they are not able to ask the author of the books they read any questions as they read. The piece has to be able to stand on its own.  This is where the compliments and critiques come in.

They have to give two SPECIFIC compliments about the paper.  They also have to give two SPECIFIC critiques.   They write out these compliments and critiques on the blank paper.  Now, I will say this works best when you do a mini-lesson or two modeling how it is done well.  When they first start peer editing, they are very general.  The compliments and critiques are not really helpful to the author.  You really need to model how to make specific comments that will guide the author in some way.

Once they are done, they meet up with the other author and they conference together to discuss what they each wrote.  Then, it is up to the author to decide if he/she want to make any changes based on what their peer editor said.  I tell them that they are the owner of their writing.  They may choose to make changes or it's possible they don't agree with what the peer editor noted.  In that case, they simply say thank you for reading my paper and don't make the changes.  I feel it is important for them to have ownership of their paper.

The best part of this is that it all happens without me!  From the time they write their name on the chart to the time they finish meeting with their peer editor, I am out of the equation.  This allows me to focus on the kids who are still in the earlier stages of the writing process and need conferencing with me.  It really works well for us all.  My friends are headed to middle school the next year, so this also helps build the independence they will need.

How do you conduct peer editing with your friends?


  1. This is wonderful stuff! Thanks for sharing. I've never figured out how to make peer editing work -- and this year as my first year in 5th grade, I would very much like to make it work. Looking forward to trying it out! I really appreciate all of your posts! Lots of so very helpful and inspiring ideas! Happy weekend!

  2. This has been my first year in fifth grade and I have had to teach my kids basically how to write...completely. I wish I had found you before now! You have excellent ideas! Looking forward to getting lots more ideas from you! BTW, I was looking at your Valentine's Day ideas and thought that it would be great to use the "best foot forward" one as a testing reward too! Thanks for sharing all of this! I love it! :)


  3. I absolutely love your blog!
    I have nominated you for an award. Please stop by my blog to grab it.

    Thanks for all your great ideas!

    Teaching with a Smile

  4. Do you have a copy of the self-editing checklist? I'd love to see what you use on it! We've started a new writing program, and the editing process has been really rough for everyone!

    1. Hi Ms. S. I don't have a set self-editing checklist that I use. My checklist evolves as the year goes on. I find it very overwhelming to hand them an extensive editing checklist when they are not very good at it yet. I start the year with a list that has the basics. As we go on, I will add items to check for that come from out mini-lessons or are specific to the type of writing we are doing. That's the long answer. The not as long answer is I basically type up one for each writing unit that is specific to that unit, the needs of my class, the lessons I taught, and takes in to account where we are in the school year. Hope that helps some. Thanks for reading!

  5. I love the conference part! My students thrive on anonymity, but being able to take the stigma away from critiguing enough where face to face help is possible. AWESOME

    Do you use technology at all in your peer editing process? I know your students are younger than mine, but I fond constant peer editing is great at developing these skills and technology helps with this. I blogged about some ways I do it here:

    1. Hi Carissa. Sorry it took me a bit to get back to you. I read the post you linked to. Wow! what a great resource for tech editing. I no longer do much writing instruction as my position has changed to be more reading based. The writing instruction I do tends to be less formal and based on reading responses or things I see in their writing that I know I can address easily. My students get their regular writing instruction from their homeroom teachers. Hope you are having a great year! Thanks for reading my blog!